SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines on board the newest amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) held an all-hands call in the ship's hangar bay during a visit from Pearl Harbor survivor, Lauren Bruner, 93, Oct. 23.
Bruner was serving on naval battleship USS Arizona when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. As Bruner shared his stories of being a young 21-year-old fire control rangefinder on Arizona, and earning his Purple Heart for his heroism, America's crew listened in awe. His body was 70 percent burned from the flames he encountered during his escape that day. According to many of Bruner's doctors, it is a miracle that he is still alive and able to share his remarkable story.
"It's a real pleasure to come and see what the Navy is doing now as opposed to when I was in 70 years ago," said Bruner. "Good to see you young fellas doing it right, especially seeing girls on board. We didn't have that when I was in."
Surviving an event like the bombing of Pearl Harbor gives Bruner more initiative to share his story with Sailors currently serving in today's Navy.
"It was a privilege hearing from him," said Airman Allen Freeman. "His story made me realize just how much our veterans sacrificed for us, and how special the camaraderie is between our shipmates."
Bruner is only one of 10 Arizona survivors left, which made his visit to America that much more significant.
During the ceremony, Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., commanding officer of America, thanked Bruner for his service to the country and for the opportunity to hear his personal account on the infamous day in our country's history.
Following the all-hands call, Bruner signed photos and took pictures with members of the crew, and toured the ship's flight deck.
"Hearing his stories about what he did and what he accomplished is truly special," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Cameron Weisenberger. "You can read books or watch movies about what happened, but to have someone who was there tell you about it really puts it into perspective. You can feel what they went through."
America is the fourth ship bearing the name, but is the first of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next-generation "big-deck," America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.